Schools abandon conservative book

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Schools abandon conservative book

After a public backlash both online and in the classroom, all but one school that planned to use a history textbook by Kyohak Publishing Company have reversed their decision.

The book has been criticized for having a conservative bias, soft-pedalling its criticism of Japanese colonial rule and the 18-year dictatorship of Park Chung Hee. Critics said it overemphasized Park’s economic achievements.

Of about 800 high schools in the country, around a dozen had initially announced plans to use the Kyohak textbook, which sparked protests from liberals, civic groups and students.

Some students put up handwritten posters in the school hallways to express their disagreement with the textbook selection.

“I am now ashamed of my school uniform because my school is about to select a Kyohak textbook that excuses a military coup and dictatorship and glosses over Japan’s colonial rule,” read a poster put up Friday by a Dongwoo High School student in Suwon.

A history teacher at Dongwoo Girls’ High School, also in Suwon, which had chosen the Kyohak textbook, said on Facebook Thursday there was pressure on teachers from the principal to choose the Kyohak textbook.

The schools that chose the textbook were accused of being unpatriotic and “pro-Japanese.”

Sangsan High School in Jeonju, North Jeolla, is the only school still going ahead with its choice, and pressure is on its board to reconsider.

Lee Jong-hoon, vice principal of the private school, said the school chose to introduce two textbooks - one by Kyohak and another by Jihaksa Publishing Company - to give students a balanced perspective of history.

The school deleted the posts on its website critical of its selection by students and alumnus, further upsetting those opposed to the Kyohak textbook.

A poster put up in the school by a student Saturday was also taken down by the faculty.

The North Jeolla Office of Education weighed in and said it was going to investigate the taking down of the poster to see if that violated the students’ basic right of expression.

Sangsan’s board is expected to decide whether to change its mind at a meeting today.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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